Jakob Nielsen, a well-known international expert on usability, writes articles. You can be pretty confident that he believes he writes articles on the basis of a recent article, “Write Articles, Not Blog Postings.” And he’s right. He doesn’t write blog posts.

However, his stance is that an article is differentiated from a blog post on the basis that blog postings are always “commodity content,” and that “there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work.”

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value. Think of how disappointing it feels when you’re searching for something and get directed to short postings in the middle of a debate that occurred years before, and is thus irrelevant.

He makes the specific point that he’s addressing the content style of the writing, not the method of publishing. He does specifically consider a blog post to be superficial, derivative, and driven by outside events or other sites. And, furthermore, he considers this to be a bad thing.

I’ll absolutely state that this blog post I’m writing is derivative and that it is driven by outside events. Obviously, I’m commenting on Jakob Nielsen’s article. I would like to believe that this is not a superficial post, however. I frankly consider that anything at all posted online or in print which is superficial is simply bad writing.

Commentary on current events in an industry, although certainly derivative, is valuable and important. Superficiality is not. The impression left by Dr. Nielsen’s article is that the article/blog post distinction is essentially the difference between garbage and thoughtful content. I disagree.

There are certainly blogs online which contain nothing more than superficial garbage or worse. But why should we take as our example, as our defining instance of blogging, a baseline which is obviously not valuable? Why shouldn’t blogging be considered to be thoughtful articles written from a derivative perspective, providing commentary or opinions on outside events?

Dr. Nielsen continues to discuss how written content on line should demonstrate leadership. It should be in-depth content which adds value. Again, this is absolutely true. For the most part, what Dr. Nielsen is saying that valuable content online needs to be high quality, thoroughly researched, well-written, and should demonstrate expertise.

He also happens to be saying that any content which does not meet those specifications is superficial garbage and your time is better spent elsewhere. Opinion has value. Regardless of whether your opinion is the most authoritative, the most educated, or the most popular, it provides a window into the way you think and helps you make a connection with your prospective customers. Yes, many industries may not benefit from this. (At least, not at this point in time — things may change.) The value of blogging, however, is not exclusive to “websites that sell cheap products.”

See also the discussion at Cre8asite Forums – Slow Down and Write Great Articles.